Valencia or Malaga…now that is the question… Both of these Spanish cities are a fantastic choice for any vacation, but they do have some differences (which we’ll get into a bit later!). However, if you’re after great food, beautiful beaches, and fantastic weather, the choice may become a little difficult!
Both cities are popular amongst tourists, however, Malaga does have a bit of a reputation for being a top choice for your guys or gal’s holiday. Having said that, heading to Valencia could be a brilliant way to push the boat out a little on your next friend-vacation… Didn’t we say choosing would be hard?!
We wouldn’t blame you if you feel torn between the two, but of course, we’re here to help and have put together this handy guide to help you (and us) decide which Spanish city is best. So, here we go – Valencia or Malaga?
Valencia Vs Malaga – The vibe
We’re not sure about you, but we think the vibe is one of the most important factors when it comes to deciding where to go on vacation! In the case of Valencia or Malaga, the vibe is definitely something to consider, and while BOTH of these cities have a great vibe, they are slightly different.
Malaga is the capital of the Costa del Sol, an incredibly popular summer destination for people from around the world! The city is great for tourists, with amazing beaches, historical sights, and a cosmopolitan meets laid-back beach resort kind of feeling. Valencia, on the other hand, gives off more of a local vibe, don’t get us wrong, the city is great for tourists, but if you head to a bar, you might find more locals than visitors!
Both cities have a blend of old and new, but Valencia takes it to a whole other level with its modern buildings and futuristic City of The Arts and Sciences (if you’re a Westworld fan, this place makes a cameo in season 3). The city feels a lot less “stuck in time” than Malaga, but we have to say that this can make it lack the certain charm that we’re all looking for on vacation.
If you’re after a visitor-friendly city where you can wander around the historic old town and lounge on the beaches before hitting up a stylish (albeit touristy) bar, then Malaga is the one. If you like pushing the boat out and visiting somewhere a little less polished, that feels more like an authentic working city then Valencia is a great choice!
Winner: Malaga – we’re sorry Valencia, as cool as the City of the Arts and Sciences is, we wanna kick back like the tourists we are with a cocktail by the beach, or coffee in a cute historic cafe.
Valencia Vs Malaga – The weather
Another important component of a great holiday we have got to discuss is the weather! Valencia is on Spain’s east coast whereas Malaga is on the south coast in Andalusia, but, despite being over 600 kilometers away from each other, they both have very similar weather. The good news is, they both fit the bill for what we would call a Mediterranean climate, the bad news is, they both have relatively rainy winters.
If you want a hot summer vacation, then either one will do. In Valencia, August is the warmest month with temperatures reaching highs of 88°F and an average of 79°F. Malaga is similar, with highs of 89°F and an average of 79.5°F in August. Rain is virtually non-existent over the summer, so remember to pack a lot of sun cream and a hat!
Both Valencia and Malaga experience mild winters with January being their coldest month. In Valencia, the average temperature is 51.3°F with lows of 41°F. Malaga is slightly warmer, with averages of 53.3°F and lows of 46°F. Rainfall in Malaga typically occurs from October to March with November and December being the rainiest months. Valencia on the other hand has rainfall between September and April, with fall (September and October) being the rainiest months. This means that if you’re planning a December getaway for the holiday season, then maybe Valencia is a better choice – it may be ever so slightly colder, but there will be less chance of rain.
Winner: Draw – it has to be a tie! The weather is so similar that unless you’re planning a winter visit, you won’t feel much of a difference!
Valencia Vs Malaga – Price
It’s time to talk about price. This could very well be the deciding factor between Valencia or Malaga, and we wouldn’t blame you if you assumed that Malaga would be a lot more expensive! Surprisingly, however, it isn’t. If we look at the numbers from budgetyourtrip.com, the average traveler spends 106 EUR (119 USD) a day in Malaga compared to 98 EUR (111 USD) a day in Valencia.
The biggest difference between the two is in accommodation, which visitors spend on average 18 USD more staying in Malaga. Food on average is cheaper in Malaga (31 USD VS 37 USD), but alcohol is ever so slightly cheaper in Valencia. It’s safe to say that cost-wise, it’s pretty evenly matched, BUT, we have a sneaking suspicion that spending money in Malaga is a lot easier. With the beach-side bars and the shopping, you’ll definitely have to work harder to stick to your budget!
Winner: Draw – Going on the cold, hard numbers alone, it’s got to be a tie.
Valencia Vs Malaga – Accommodation
Okay, so we’ve already established that where you’re going to stay will be ever so slightly more expensive in Malaga (depending on what you book, of course). But, what about the location, quality, and overall style of each city’s accommodation? Is there a clear winner?
Choice-wise, there is a LOT more in Malaga. There are 2,901 properties listed on Booking.com in Malaga, compared to only 1,226 in Valencia, and they both only have seven five-star hotels. The main difference between accommodation between the two cities lies in the beachfront properties. Malaga is a beachfront city, whereas Valencia is more like a city with a beach front. This means there are way more beach-front properties in Malaga (like this stunning apartment) that seem more polished and designed for international tourists. Damn, if you have enough money, you can even stay in an ocean-view castle! Malaga is seriously bringing it when it comes to accommodation.
There are great properties in Valencia too, but for something spectacular, it’s better to look close to the city center, where there are cool and quirky historical properties. Although we just love a good beach, staying in the city center is a better fit for Valencia, as most of the attractions and sights are concentrated in and around the center.
Winner: Malaga – The choice, the quality, the beach… we HAVE to pick Malaga as our overall winner.
Valencia Vs Malaga – Shopping
What better way to break up a day of sightseeing and gorging on Spanish food than by going on a shopping spree? Whether it’s for souvenirs for friends and family back home…or not… because, treat yo’ self, a city with good shopping is like the icing on top of the
So, which city has better shopping?! Valencia or Malaga? Let’s find out.
If you want to do your shopping in Malaga’s city center, then Calle Larios is the place to go! Think of it as Malaga’s high street, with a mixture of cute boutiques and high-end shops. If you are on a serious mission and want to make a day of it, then Larios Cantro is the place for an all-around shopping experience. The mall is 15 minutes outside of the city center but there are restaurants and cafes to refuel at in between hitting the shops! You’ll be more likely to find brands you know here, and there’s also several movie theaters (you may want to double-check the language though).
We do have to say that right off the bat, the shopping in Valencia already seems to be a cut above Malaga. The city has everything from vintage stores, to high-street fashion, to your classic tourist souvenirs. Go to Calle Colon for your well-known high street brands and jewelry stores, but don’t forget to explore its alleyways for high-end fashion stores and smaller boutiques. The city has a Sunday flea market at Plaza Luis Casanova, where you might find some bargain treasures, and for up-and-coming designers, Calle Poeta Querol is a must-visit!
Winner: Valencia – Valencia is hands down our winner. It has a bigger range of shopping compared to Malaga and who doesn’t love a flea market?
Valencia Vs Malaga – Beaches
The city break and beach holiday combo is the one. Spend your days exploring cultural sites, perusing local markets, and eating in sidewalk cafes, then as the sun sets head to the beach for a happy hour cocktail and a refreshing dip in the sea! Both Malaga and Valencia have beaches that are easy to reach from the city centers, but one city, in particular, takes the crown when it comes to beautiful city beaches…
We’re talking of course about Malaga. What more would we expect from a city that is located on the Costa del Sol (which literally translates as the “Sun Coast”). You’ll find beaches really close to the city center, and if you don’t mind going out a little further, you’ll find quieter, more secluded beaches, away from all the noise of the city. La Malagueta beach is the most popular and conveniently close to the city center. There are restaurants and bars along the adjoining Promenade of Pablo Ruiz Picasso, and you can rent hammocks and umbrellas here in the summer. Head further along La Malagueta beach and you’ll reach La Caleta beach, a less busy, but still buzzing spot. For somewhere even quieter, walk further east to El Palo beach, nestled among fishing villages.
Valencia also has nice beaches that are close to the hubbub of the city center. The closest one is El Cabanyal beach (called Las Arenas by the locals), it’s easy to reach on foot or by tram/metro. The most popular and well-known beach however, is Malvarrosa beach. It has a lot going on, from scuba diving, surfing, beach volleyball, and more! There are nearby restaurants, cafes, and bars, and, if you want to hunt for the best Paella in the city, this is a good area to start looking!
Winner: Malaga – It was a close call, but Malaga is our overall winner!
Valencia Vs Malaga – Nightlife
When it comes to Spain, Costa del Sol is a well-known party place. Malaga definitely lives up to that reputation, rivaling other European party hotspots such as Ibiza and Mykonos! There’s a buzzing night scene here year-round, with Plaza del Merced and Plaza Uncibay being reliable party hotspots. You’ll find people from all walks of life including locals, young university students, and other tourists. During the summer, there’s an incredible beach party scene, centered around the beach neighborhoods of Mlaguate and Pedregalejo.
For a quiet evening cocktail or glass of wine, head to the Port of Malaga for a more chilled out vibe with a nice view.
In Valencia, the main party is in El Carmen. This is the city’s historic center so you’ll find bars, restaurants, and nightclubs all packed tightly into the neighborhood’s narrow streets. Like Malaga, the warm summer temperatures transform the Valencia city beaches into a buzzing after-hours destination, and the port, as well as Malvarrosa beach, become THE place to be!
Winner: Malaga – nothing beats partying it UP in the Costa del Sol.
Valencia Vs Malaga – The final verdict
We’ve given everything a second look over, and after a lot of umming and ahhing, we have to say that given the choice between Valencia or Malaga… we have to pick Malaga! We love the laid-back beach resort vibe, mixed in with the cosmopolitan feel of the city, and the choices of 10/10 beachfront accommodation just blew us away.
Ultimately, it was a close call, especially since price AND weather-wise they’re pretty similar! However, there’s a reason the Costa del Sol is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain, and we’ll take in the Andalusian beaches and nightlife, any day of the week!